There is presently no evidence to suggest that the Delta plus variant of Covid-19 will cause a third a wave of infections in India, Dr Anurag Agarwal, the head of the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, told NDTV on Wednesday.
Agarwal said that the Delta plus strain was detected in less than 1% of over 3,500 samples from Maharashtra that his institute sequenced in June. However, he emphasised that the strain was still a “variant of concern”.
The strain, which is a mutation of the Delta variant, has been classified as a “variant of concern”. The health ministry on Wednesday confirmed that around 40 cases of the Delta plus variant had been found in Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh. The government advised these states to concentrate on surveillance, testing, quick contact tracing and and vaccination.
Agarwal told the news channel that the country should be concerned about the continuing second wave of pandemic, before worrying about the third. “I certainly do not see any reason right now for people to panic regarding Delta plus being significantly worse than Delta or creating a major third wave,” Agarwal said. “There is absolutely no evidence for that.”
Agarwal also said that the Delta plus strain did not seem to cause more severe symptoms in patients. “One person who had severe disease already had significant age and comorbidities,” he said. On a question about the variant possibly escaping vaccines, Agarwal said: “As the number [of cases] go up, we will know more”.
Experts in India have recently warned about the resurgence of Covid-19 cases if safety protocols are not followed. Last week, All India Institute of Medical Sciences Director Dr Randeep Guleria said that with crowds building up after the easing of restrictions across India, the “inevitable” third wave of infections could hit the country in the next six to eight weeks.
Follow containment strategies: Centre
Meanwhile, a Union health ministry official said that if containment strategies and Covid-appropriate behaviour are followed, the impact of the possible third wave of infections would be less and there won’t be a strain on the health infrastructure, PTI reported.
Health ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal added that 2.2% of India’s population had been affected by the coronavirus disease since its outbreak in January 2020. “This should also make us wary of protecting the still vulnerable or susceptible 97 per cent population,” he said, according to PTI. “We cannot let our guards down.”
Agarwal spoke about the need to bust myths to tackle vaccine hesitancy in rural areas. “While busting myths is important, it is also critical to remind communities about the role of Covid appropriate behaviour in breaking the virus transmission chain,” he added.
The total number of coronavirus cases in India crossed the 3-crore mark on Wednesday. Since the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020, India has reported 3,00,28,709 infections. Of this, 50,848 cases were reported on Wednesday alone. However, the active cases decreased to 6,43,194 – the lowest in 82 days. The country’s toll rose by 1,358 to 3,90,660.